Massachusetts senate


Massachusetts To Ban Texting Behind the Wheel?

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 150-1 last week approving a bill that bans texting while driving for all motorists and imposes a new requirement on elderly drivers. Only a day after the Massachusetts House passed the text-banning legislation the Massachusetts Senate voted in agreement passing the measure as well. This piece of legislation will travel onward to Governor Deval Patrick who has also announced he supports the bill and will review the proposal when it reaches his desk.

If passed the legislation will ban texting sate-wide while driving and restrict those under 18 to use a cell phone while driving except in emergencies. Drivers under 18 years of age who are caught texting and driving under this new legislation will face a $100 find on the first offense, $250 on the second, and $500 on the third and all subsequent offenses. The fine and ticket for texting while driving will not be considered a moving violation and thus are not subject to an insurance surcharge.

The proposed bill will also require drivers turning 75 years or older to take their license in to an RMV office to take an eye exam for a renewal and every five years after their 75th birthday. Another key part in the legislation is a provision created to encourage doctors to alert the state when a patient may be dangerous on the roads.

If this bill makes it’s way to law Massachusetts will join 28 other states and the District of Colombia in banning texting behind the wheel.

Massachusetts Bill to Set Hourly Labor Rates in Auto Shops

Legislators are considering two bills that would regulate minimum labor rates for body, paint, frame, and mechanical repair shops. The two pieces of legislation, S.B. 122 and H.B. 1043, have gained a great amount of support and scrutiny.

Among supporters is the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Massachusetts. This Alliance claims for over a decade Massachusetts collision auto shops have received the lowest labor rates in the country despite the fact that they operate one of the highest cost states. The national average hourly labor rate as of September 30th 2009 was $45.02 while Massachusetts averaged at $35,75 an hour. This puts Massachusetts as the second lowest average hourly wage for this profession only behind Tennessee.

The proposed legislation would create an 11-member labor rate commission to to determine the appropriate minimum hourly labor rates based on the national labor rate and other factors. This committee would also determine assign a certain class for each shop– “A,” “B” and “C” – with an application and inspection process for each classification.

Labor rates paid would be based on shop classifications as follows:

• Level “A” shops must be paid an amount not less than 100 percent of the indexed hourly rate in force.

• Level “B” shops must be paid an amount not less than 90 percent of the indexed hourly rate in force.

• Level “C” shops must be paid a labor rate that’s fair and reasonable.

The proposed commission would consist of: the undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation as chairperson, two Senate members, two House members, three representatives of the auto insurance industry appointed by the Auto Insurance Bureau, and three representatives of the collision industry appointed by the AASP. Keep your eyes open for more news on the two pieces of legislation, it may affect where you take your vehicle for its next oil change!

Right to Repair is Stuck in a Rut

The Right to Repair Bill seems to be stalled in congress as it waits yet another day to be considered by the Massachusetts Senate. The legislature was first introduced to Massachusetts in 2006 proposing to allow independent repair shops unlimited access to major manufacturer’s service techniques, repair codes, and tools. Bills similar to this one have been proposed in eight other states since 2001 however never enacted.

Proponents of the Right To Repair Coalition include consumers along with the auto parts and repair industry. In fact the Right to Repair legislation is funded and lobbied by some of the largest aftermarket auto part retailers. Those supporting the bill argue the  computers vehicles rely on are becoming increasingly advanced and making repairs more of a nightmare for fix-it-yourselfers and independent repair shops.They argue its time repair shops and repair part manufacturers should have explicit access to the repair codes, techniques, and tools necessary to repair vehicles. This measure would drive down consumer’s repair costs and grant a greater convenience and choice in choosing repair shops. Supporters of the bill hopes the measure will pass giving the Federal Trade Commission authorization to enforce regulations and encourage competition.

Opposers of the bill believe it would force manufacturers to release confidential trade secrets and other information that would give competitors an unfair advantage. Others believe the Bill’s goal is gain access to automakers information to reproduce parts outsourcing at a lower cost overseas. Those opposed to the bill reference the National Automotive Service Task Force that was formed in 2000 to grant independent repair shops the same access to services and techniques franchised dealers had. The National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) created a website: www.nastf to address any questions independent shops have while repairing a vehicle. The largest organization representing independent repair shops, New England Service Station and Auto Repair Association, has told congress this piece of legislature is unnecessary as service information and repair codes are already available.

Here’s the big question… who is right? If you have an opinion on this piece of legislation contact your local congress member via the contact information at link: www.mass.gov/legis/.

Older Drivers Get to Know Their Limits

As the baby boomers age the number of drivers 65 years or older rise on the road. Although new drivers joining the 65 + grouping drive further each year than generations before them, from 1997 – 2006 elderly drivers have experienced fewer fatal accidents than the same age groups in the past.

Although the causes for this decline are not clear the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compiled statistics and believes it may be due in part to a greater self awareness. According to the Institute drivers are limiting their own driving more often as they age and develop physical or cognitive conditions. Some impairments that come with age include a greater limitation in vision, hearing, and flexibility as well as medication side effects.

Many elderly drivers are pushed by their friends and family to hand over their keys; which may also contribute to the decrease in elderly accidents. In these cases the older driver will need to ask family members for rides or depend upon public transit. This may be difficult when someone needs to get to and from church, the pharmacy, grocery shopping, and other places throughout the week.

Older drivers, all drivers for that matter, may attend safety driving courses to increase road safety and awareness. Although some drivers need to be taken off the road, these classes may instill the extra caution and safety tips elderly drivers need to be safe on the road. Driver-safety classes are offered by AARP, AAA, and other organizations touching on defensive driving, new traffic laws, and safety tips. A new bill passed through the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week and is currently pending in the Massachusetts Senate that would require elderly drivers to take a vision exam every few years to renew their license. Measures such as these will increase everyone’s safety on the road.

Mass House Approves Cell Phone Safety Laws Behind the Wheel

Thursday the Massachusetts House passed a bill that would make it the 7th state requiring drivers to use a hands free device behind the wheel and 20th state to ban texting. This is not the House’s first attempt to pass these types of laws. Two years ago a similar measure was passed by the House however soon after died in the Senate. There it was believed the hands free device was more of an inconvenience that did not improve drivers safety.

The new bill was approved this last week by a House vote of 146 to 9. This restriction however was not the only provision held in the legislation. It would also ban drivers from text messaging behind the wheel, prohibit the use of cell phones behind the wheel of those 18 years and under, and require drivers over 75 to take a vision test every 5 years. Drivers are currently required to renew their license every 5 years, however only take a vision test every 10 years. This bill would enforce stricter driving laws many feel are overdue.

Drivers who are caught texting or talking without a hands-free-device would be fined on the first offense $100, on the second offense $250, and a whopping $500 on the third offense. The bill would allow insurance companies to decide themselves whether a surcharge will be used if the new restrictions are passed. Drivers under 18 years caught using a cell phone behind the wheel would have their license suspended.

Senate members have mixed feelings about how strict these laws should actually be. Previous studies have suggested talking on a hands free device verses the actual phone leave drivers equally distracted by the conversation. Some members of the senate are pushing for the hands free device to aid law enforcement’s efforts. A point was made that if texting was banned however the hands free portion of the bill was not passed, how would officers know if a driver was placing a call or sending a text message? Looks as if we’ll just have to wait and see what the Senate as a whole makes of it.

Open Seat in Massachusetts Senate

The race to fill the late Congressman Edward Kennedy’s seat has sparked a anything but a mediocre election. A seat in the Massachusetts Senate hasn’t been open for decades. With the Massachusetts health legislation in pieces, Democrats and Republicans are up for a tough election. The newly elected Senator will be decided the first of December, the date of the Democratic primary.

As the race endures Governor Deval Patrick has appointed Paul Kirk as an interm, temporarily filling the late Senator’s seat. Paul Kirk,  a graduate of Harvard Law School, will fill the position until January when a newly elected Senator assumes office.

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